The Sea Breeze is an icon of 1980s drinking, a light and refreshing cocktail that pairs perfectly with sunny days at the beach. Featuring vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice, it’s often grouped with similar drinks of the era, like the Cape Codder (vodka and cranberry) and the Bay Breeze (vodka, cranberry and pineapple). That makes sense, as the cocktails do contain a common thread among their ingredients. But the Sea Breeze enjoys a history all its own.
Despite its significant ’80s street cred, the Sea Breeze likely originated decades earlier, although in a different form than it’s known today. Harry Craddock’s famed 1930 tome, “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” includes a recipe for the Sea Breeze Cooler, which calls for equal parts dry gin and apricot brandy, plus half a lemon and two dashes of grenadine. It’s served over ice, topped with club soda and garnished with mint. Though a much different cocktail than today’s version, many believe this to be the basis for the modern Sea Breeze. And the recipe changeup may be due to some clever marketing by a cranberry consortium.
By the 1960s, Ocean Spray—originally founded as a growers’ collective in 1930—began publishing recipe booklets to promote using the tart little berries in more foods and drinks. Naturally, this push included cocktails. One particular cocktail was dubbed the Sea Breeze and featured cranberry juice, which may be the first instance of the popular drink containing cranberry.
Today, the Savoy’s Sea Breeze Cooler is largely under-the-radar, supplanted by the modern vodka-spiked version. The cocktail is thirst-quenching, delicious and simple to make, so it’s easy to see why it caught on. Bottled cranberry juice continues to be the popular choice, as fresh juice is typically too tart to work by itself. But freshly squeezed grapefruit is always a good idea. Its rich citrus notes contribute to the cocktail’s restorative sensibilities and quaffability.
The Sea Breeze is ready to help, whether you’re on a beach or just trying to conjure beach vibes with your drinking habits. Built in the same glass you drink it in, there’s no easier way to bring the sunny weather your way.
1 1/2 ounces vodka
3 ounces cranberry juice
1 1/2 ounces grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
Garnish: lime wheel
Add the vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice into a highball glass with ice and stir.
Garnish with a lime wheel.